After a harsher winter than I have experienced in quite a while, signs of Spring are finally in evidence. The buds have been appearing on our Bradford Pear tree, tulips have pushed up through the dirt to warm in the sun, crocuses are blooming, robins are hopping about the yard looking for worms, and at the creeks I can hear the peepers-chorus frogs-chirping their presence in loud unison. One final sign that “Spring has Sprung”, for me, is Opening Day of Major League Baseball and that day was yesterday, March 31, 2014.
My favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals, began the season in Cincinnati, OH by taking on the Cincinnati Reds and winning, 1-0 during 9 innings of play. As I watched the game on tv the camera would periodically scan the audience and there in the stands sat Pete Rose, former great baseball player for the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970s. He was wearing a big, red ball cap with the words “Big Red Machine” emblazoned on it. The Cincinnati Reds of the 1970s were the best team in baseball and that was when I began to pay attention to the sport. I was 9 or 10 and my favorite player was Johnny Bench, the Reds’ catcher. I also had a Hank Aaron baseball card and I don’t know what happened to it…wish I still had it!
In my hometown of Defiance, OH, being that it is in the northwest part of the state, there were three baseball teams the citizens followed in the 1970s, and still follow today: Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, and the aforementioned Reds. My mom told me that when she was a child in the 1950s, the Indians were really good and that was the team my grandpa paid attention to. My husband’s late father grew up in Detroit, so my husband grew up in a Detroit Tiger household. When husband and I were dating, it was a common thing to hear the radio playing at his house on a sunny afternoon, set to WJR-The Great Voice of the Great Lakes- and Ernie Harwell’s voice could be heard broadcasting a Tiger’s game. It was also fun to attend a couple games at Tiger’s Stadium. We were so happy when they won the World Series in 1984. My brother’s 2 sons are Tigers’ fans and when the St. Louis Cardinals beat them for the World Series title in 2006, we treaded lightly and didn’t mention the win as we didn’t want to add to their sadness. One of my nephews sweetly told me at a later family gathering that his second favorite team is the Cardinals-awwww!
I have also been to some minor league baseball games. When we lived near Augusta, GA, circa 1988, husband and I went to an Augusta Pirates game(farm team for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but now a farm team for the San Francisco Giants) and we watched future major leaguer Moises Alou shine in a game with his athletic skills. Now that we live in Rolla, MO the minor league team of choice is the Springfield Cardinals, in Springfield, MO. Attending their games is a lot of fun. They ballpark management has a variety of amusing games with audience participation planned for every break at the end of an inning, and some games appear on the video screens, too.
Some historians would say that baseball was derived from the British game of Rounders. Some have given credit through the years to one man, Abner Doubleday, a career U. S. Army officer who supposedly invented the game in Cooperstown, NY, in 1839. Whichever way the sport was begun, to me it is an enjoyable way to while away a summer afternoon, with the radio on and while puttering about the house, I can listen and imagine the plays in my mind. The battle of one batter against one pitcher, to see who will be the winner of each at bat, to see if one player can get to base, advance, and try to get that run to count. To know if a double-play or even a triple play will happen. At an actual ballpark, it’s always fun to people watch, eat a hotdog in the park, explain aspects of the game to one of my kids when it’s been their first time to be at a major or minor league game. To laugh at the antics of Fredbird, the Cardinal’s crazy mascot. Before I sign off of this week’s post, I’ll include a funny meme I saw last week. There are three Major League Baseball Teams named after birds: Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, and my St. Louis Cardinals. Of those three teams, the Cardinals have had the most successful seasons of play through the years and the meme depicts two birds comparing their teams’ records; obviously the cardinal has the last word!